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Tita in Tinta

I have finally caught up with the blog :) Here is the rest of my run through Peru. Next up will be Bolivia and then northern Argentina.
Thanks for your patience, I will get the rest up over the next few days.
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To listen to my recent radio interview press HERE
To View recent new footage on my run through Mexico press HERE
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It was a lovely seven day break I had in Cusco and Machu, Picchu, a much needed break.
That very first day out of Cusco I was a bit sluggish, which is normal for someone after taking a break from such a run.
I have been wondering why I don’t see any female drivers here in Peru, I just don´t understand it. I have seen just one, she stopped to give me a bottle of water about a month ago. I have been watching closely ever since this occurred to me. Remember I am running towards traffic making good eye contact. For the sake of my own unscientific research I decided to count how many female drivers on a particular stretch of road towards Oropeso.. After counting as far as 103, all male I got fed up counting..
What´s going on here in Peru, a democracy is a mystery to me. My friend Richard in Guayaquil, Ecuador who has been living there several years told me he ” spotted ” a few female bus drivers, but here it´s just unreal. This is unlike any other Latino country I have visited. I remember seeing many Colombian women driving men around and even doing the riding on motorbikes.
I asked the lady in the hotel I stayed in that first night and her reply was a very sad.. ” It´s a woman’s job to stay at home and a mans job to do the driving. “

I tell her that Peruvian male drivers are the worst on my run so far, and that women could probably do a better job.
Two 45 and 44km days later I asked a female flagger on a road construction project. She would surely see the lack of female driver and have an opinion. She just told me they are afraid to drive. I can well believe that here and perhaps they are just smarter than the men – my sister shares the ‘ taxi duties ‘ with her husband, driving the children around their various activities!
I asked a pharmacist the same question. She was not having any problem understanding me and then all of a sudden she had problems. Instead she gave me a packet of throat lossengers for my cold. I think many of the women just don’t comprehend why I am asking these questions as it’s not on their radar it seems… Perhaps it’s just like asking me why I am not flying a space shuttle! I have joked with the women that if their husbands don’t teach them how to drive that they should’t give them any sex!
 
In Quiquijana I found an hospedaje.. It adjoins a restaurant. Here in Peru every time I order  meal or even beverage drinks I first have to ask the price of things as I am getting short changed so much. I can see them looking at me in amazement as I ask the price of such things as a bar of chocolate.
In restaurants, and I visit about two or three each day, I am finding that when I answer questions about my run I am seeing $ signs lighting up in their eyes. Often one of the first questions is about my profession which leads onto how can I afford it. I find this very irritating. Especially when the man is this hospedaje tried charging me for charging up my ipod in the restaurant as there was no socket in my room. I will never owe anyone I meet on this run a red cent but neither will I be taken for a mug or pay over the rate. This man I just laughed at and pretended it was a joke.
 
I am finding that it´s the ordinary person, the campesinos, with their friendly greetings, their big smiles out in the street that wants to help me with their offers of oranges and water, very rarely anyone working in the services industry, screw the gringo with the gringo tax as I call it!
 
 
I sometimes go through phases where I am angry at what is happening in these countries. I am sometimes angry at the people for their lack of ´get up and go ´ Why do they take crappy and mostly no services. Having just come from Machu Picchu and marveled at all the Incan hard work I wonder what the Incas would think of present day Peru. Would the Incas be puking in their graves if they could see the state of the country today and all the shoddy workmanship, I often wonder.
If I was to live here with all the cold food, served with  mostly a service less unsmiling indifference, together with my hatred for injustice – which is very much as a result of my strong trade unionist background –  I think I would just go crazy.
Then I went into another restaurant and asked the lady why the people are not marching every single day down to the mayors office or to local government buildings. Why are they not demanding more road and city street repairs, proper water service, road clean ups? Why is there much dysfunction? It seems the only marching is for religious feasts and festivals.
And all the corruption, that’s a root of much of the poverty here. How come Canada and the USA have decent, and  honest (though far from perfect) democracies, while all of Latin America can hardly offer even a single decent model?
 
With this lady I could see a tear in her eye. And those five words heard or sensed so much all over Latin America… BUT WHAT CAN WE DO?
Peru with all it´s natural resources is a very rich country. I wonder if it is even richer than IMF bailed out Ireland.
I usually tell people it is, even if it is not as at least we got our infrastructure in place, thanks to the European Union.
Sometimes when people ask me questions about the run or whatever I just want to answer back  (and without sounding like JFK!)
 ” Senor… You asked me the wrong question, you should ask me what is wrong with my country and what can I do to help! “
Yes I know people are just being friendly and showing an interest in the run but I just get frustrated and exasperated by their lack of concern for their living conditions and lack of many essential services.
 
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                                                         Tita in Tinta!
 
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That night I finished in a place called Tinta. I wandered into to villages plaza and was looking for a hotel to stay in. People had told me there was just one place near the plaza but I had a bit of difficulty finding it. A lady pointed me towards it in a waterlogged muddy street just off the south end of the plaza. She was following me towards the door holding her baby in a multicoloured stripped blanket. Then I realized she was the owner as she followed me into the courtyard. I noticed she was breastfeeding the infant and wondered if she was as she walked through the village, I think so. I don’t know what came over me but I asked her if I could take her photo!

Can I take a photo please Dervina?

 Normally women here shy away at the sight of a camera, instinct told me she wouldn’t. So I took one and then realized it was not a good photo and then set my camera on zoom for another. Her name was Dervina and her husband was looking out of an open door in the courtyard just behind me!

Sorry Derv. I need to use my zoom!

 
 
There can be a certain mental torture for the traveller with a social conscience travelling through the developing world. On foot I am closer than other travelers. Though cyclists see much, they still miss a lot of whats going on. If there is a distance of 25-30km and a place to stop, I will stop and talk to the locals, many cyclists just cycle on as they can carry more food and water.
I see so many gringos travelling in buses and wonder what they see. Very little as they just seem to go from town or city to town or city and are lucky if they make a short restaurant break which is so common place for me.
Do they ever go into a toilet here where there is no running water, soap or toilet paper? Often I go from the toilet straight into the restaurant kitchen and much to their surprise I ask for soap and water. They usually tell me I cant go in there as it’s the kitchen and I usually reply that they wouldn’t have a job if they had no water or other facilities in Europe or the United States.
 Often they have no soap and I ask why they are preparing food and if they had been to the bathroom that day. Once or twice some of these places got a bit embarrassed and sent someone down to a shop for a bar of soap!
So many places consider soap to be an unnecessary hygiene luxury, perhaps just like some people may consider an air freshener spray!
If something costs money and can break,it will break and not be replaced, like a mirror, door lock or toilet seat.
Notice I said nothing about any hand drying. Well one would not use any towel here for fear of infection and besides one could not expect them to provide paper towels or even a luxury like an electric hand dryer.
 
In Peru (and Bolivia) I traveled for many months without seeing anyone boil water in an electric kettle or use a microwave and have been told this is perhaps due to it’s purchase and operational cost, that is if the place even has electricity and if so an electric bulb!
 Instead the customer has to wait often for fifteen minutes for a coffee at breakfast. I miss breakfast in America and to be greeted with a coffee at the door.
What about customer service? They don’t care about that, they just want the sale now and no thought about keeping the customer happy or even pride in their work. This is obviously different in the more reputable city restaurants.
Here so much food is cooked at night and just given a minor reheat in the morning.. This is the reason why almost all food is so cold, and the customers don’t complain! I have had attempts made to give me stale bread, bread that breaks up and crumbles all over the table. The locals just eat it, I hand it back and ask for fresh bread which sometimes they are able to provide. So you see they just try selling off the old bread first which the people just keep taking, never complaining.
They will swear their food is hot! Almost everything I have to hand back to be reheated and they will tell you its hot! French fries I am told are hot, even when the cooking oil is cold! Once I went into a pizzeria and told them in advance I wanted a hot pizza!
” Si, Si Senor, it’s a pizza and will be coming straight out of the oven ” I was reassured. Well do you know that same pizza was far from hot, later I wondered if they heated the oven up enough beforehand.
 
 Sometimes I ask myself if it is really is as enjoyable travelling here as it is travelling in the west. I think not. All the travel books will tell you about the fascinating cultures in places like South America. I don´t agree, that may have been true in the times of the Incas and Mayans and Aztecs, not now, I am afraid to report. All I see outside the big cities are people living in slums. I rarely see a house that one would be proud of in the west. The living conditions that some of the people live in here are terrible. I have resisted from putting those photos or from taking such photos and putting them on this blog as these people deserve to keep their dignity. The ones you have seen are, believe me, some of the better living quarters.
 
It can be mental torture being so close to such people! My great friend and fellow world journey runner from Denmark uses a support vehicle and that way he can escape the countless dorks I meet – not having to put up with their crap, poor hygiene, slow service and cold food. Well Jesper always ate cold food. He says its quicker and you don’t risk food poisoning, a wise man!
 
On my world cycle trip when I was 22 years old I cycled across Asia. In my young excited naivety I remember thinking how ´exotic ´it was seeing the poor people of Iran,Afghanistan,Pakistan and India went about their daily life. Then I got to Calcutta and was appalled by the poverty I witnessed there. The train and bus station were like refuge camps with hundreds of people living there. I got to know a couple of people, for I slept there a couple of nights.
 
On the road today I was thinking about this so much that when a man asked me where I was going, I am sorry to say that in my frustration I just shouted back.
” Donde la hente tienne mas ambition! ” Where the people have more ambition.
As soon as I said it I knew it was the wrong thing to have said.
The man responded with a shocked look as if to say…. What side of the bed did you get out of this morning senor?
” Oh! La La! “
 
Why don´t people fight back and ask, rather demand proper services? I wonder if I lived here too would I be just dragged into the bottomless pit of despair, it´s very easy for me to say otherwise.
 
Back running on the road I was greeted by a farmer called Roman. He spoke a little English. It seems people learn to speak some English in school but rarely have an opportunity to use it.
 Roman told me woman don’t drive because of  ´social issues. ´

Roman

 
I stopped for coffee but it´s now hard to get. Most people driink mate de cocoa. A tea made from the cocoa leaves- As I mentioned before the cocoa leaves are the basis of cocaine and have other harmful effects when consumed in a habitual manner but as a tea its harmless as mate de cocoa also comes in tea bags commercially manufactured for export around the world.
I had the coca leaf mate infused in hot water.
 I am assured it is good for my cold. I will soon see as 10 days on antibiotics did nothing for it.
I have absolutely no interest in chewing cocoa leaves like many people do here!
While I waited for my tea and a bowl of soup I saw a sewing machine. My pack needs some repairs and remembering what Roman said I asked the waiter if his wife would repair my pack.
No I will repair it he said!. So the waiter spent a good hour between fixing the sewing machine and stitching my pack, there was my morning slipping away, an hour and a half here. $4 for the repair, soup and two cups of mate de cocoa. South Peru is really cheap, even if the food is terrible it’s filling.
 

Pack Repairs

 
I was only a couple of kilometres up the road when I met a German couple Andreas and Johanna who were cycling around the world. I greeted them with
” I hope you are not motor bikers! ” As two more bikers flew by without stopping.
We had a good chat. They told me it was easy for them to get a 3 month China visa and then extend it.. But to the south, I think it was Tajikstan they only got a 5 day visa for the 550kms, nice and business-like on a bike but running I would have to return to my competitive days for that! Thankfully Tajikstan is not on my route.

Andreas and Johanna

 
It was really a day for stops, couldn’t ´t get into my rhythm because in the afternoon I met Javier from Rosario Argentina who spent five months cycling from Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego.  Javier is only cycling to the Mexico/USA border, visa problems.
I met and stopped to talk to many more people on the road, put on some music on my ipod connected to my external speaker which was in my pocket. I was in a happier mood, even if the hard shoulder has turned to gravel with a steep camber. When I got a good surface I notice my difference in pace.
I ran on to a small town called Marangani thinking if I was Italian that could be me! I had only 38 kilometres under my feet and really wanted another.
 Today the villages were every 5km apart and the cyclists assured me it was the same all the way. I was just about ready to run through town when a man came running from a football pitch and told me not to go any further as there was nothing.. Nada he emphasised and insisted that I stay in the hotel here, so persistent was he that I first thought he owned the hotel!
I know there is a 4,300 mt mountain pass looming within the next 20km and he says nothing for the next 50km.
 
 
Ok I will stay here I told him after first giving him an interrogation to see if he really knew for sure, as I told him my experience is that local people know nothing of the road ahead! I will see tomorrow, if he was correct, right now I still fell I am having an amazing dollop of the ´luck of the Irish ¨
I made my way towards Marangani plaza and found the hospedaje. Many of the children from the town followed me into the adjoining grocery store, which also has an internet cafe, how neat and convenient for me.
They did what so many children do… They stared and stared. I started joking with them, telling the kids..
” Yes I am different but only in colour, all people are the same.. “
Then I did my party piece.. I can do a good dog bark, so much that when I can´t get my Dazer dog Zapper  out fast enough on the road, I just bark my head off.
So here I told the kids that we gringos are the same, except that I bark! They really enjoyed that!
 
Well it was not 50km to the next place to stay, only about 15km but all uphill to a place called Agua Callientes where there was a thermal hot water resort with an hotel and restaurant attached, all for only $2, yes that would have been a nice place to stay last night.
A few more kilometres I was at the top of the mountain pass, all 4,338 metres of it. At the top some French tourists came over for a chat and some photos. Then a busload of gringos, that sounded American gave me a funny look. I noted their astonished looks as I started running down the other side of the pass.
 
I didn’t get very far as I met an English cyclist called Nicky puffing his way up to the summit. Is it far he asked me as he puffed on a cigarette while we talked! He was a decent sort because he gave me his map.
 

Here's my map, I need a smoke!

 That was a decent day, 54km followed by a 48 the next day. Around lunchtime I saw a family of 5 on a motorbike! 5 is the record number I have seen, I guess 6 is illegal.
Need-less-to-say none were wearing helmets. A husband with a child in front of him. Then the wife holding a baby with another child between her and the husband! It’s very hard to get these photos as they are usually gone in a flash!
Try taking a child on a motorbike in Europe or North America, helmet or no helmet and you would soon get locked up and have your children taken off you for child neglect!
These are the things the police turn a blind eye to, not to mention the overcrowded buses and collectivos, battered and unroadworthy as they are. Poor people need to be able to get to work, or to be able to sell their merchandise in a far off marketplace just to survive, to be able to put a meal on the table for their families, yes that’s a difficult one.
 
That Saturday afternoon I stopped a bit earlier than I wanted, that was after 37km in a small community called Huarzh. Once again it seemed there was no other place to stay as I am now just running with my 3 kg backpack and depending on how much water I need for the road up to another 3 kilos in my pockets!
It seemed that the people of Huarzh were out celebrating the hamlets 25th anniversary as I was running by. I had my eyes on the community hall where I might lay my summer sleeping bag for the night but was told I was welcome to join in the celebrations, which I did! I was also given a souvenir white scarf with Huarzh’s community logo.
Soon I was up dancing with the people many dressed in traditional Peruvian costumes. I was given a lovely steak dinner and drank cola and water as everyone got drunk pretty fast. It soon got cold outside so, we all  moved indoors to the community hall. I noticed that the warped and creaky wooden floor that I planned to sleep on was now a huge sticky damp beer patch!

Hey this is the floor I hoped to sleep on!

 
The Peruvians have a custom that when they get to to the last swig of a beer bottle or beer glass that they just toss the last drain onto the floor! Not too many beer drinkers would do that in other countries! Luckily a man called Hector and his wife had told me I was welcome to stay in their place that night. They lived in another village 2 km down the road.

Oh Hokey, Hokey Pokey!

A couple more people squeezed into Hectors station wagon which was full of beer crates as his shop had provided the refreshments.
 
Hector was really drunk as when he pulled out onto the highway he started driving on the left! It seemed to take an eternity for him to get back as the traffic was heavy. Someone told me their house was the next left turn and Hector looked like he wanted to turn left upon hearing that, just as a truck came towards us!
 
At the back of his shop there was a small courtyard, I was shown my room which was obviously a family bedroom. Just as I was settling down for the night they gave me a bowl of soup. Next morning I was asked for my ‘ hotel money! ‘ I was under the impression that this was hospitality, no worries I was more than happy to pay a couple of dollars. Though I have had some genuine hospitality in Latin America, this sort of thing just a little too often and leaves a very slight sour taste in ones mouth.
 
I made up for yesterdays short day running the 51km to Juliaca and all without breakfast. I really should have bought something in Hectors store before leaving.. Long may my mistakes on the run be only minor ones was how I consoled myself that long tough day!
My cold is getting worse. I have a bad cough and a runny  nose. Running at around 4,000 metres here is not helping. This area in Peru is perhaps the start of the Altiplano which neighboring Bolivia is noted for.
I am sometimes out of breath as the air is so thin. The heart has to work harder and harder at such altitude. Sometimes I got to stop running just to get my breath back. I felt I was pushing myself too much and wondered if I would get a heart attack! It only seemed to require a very brief 15 second stoppage before I okay to run on again.
Then a 47km day to Puno. I am very close to Bolivia and the famed Lake Titicaca on the border that both Peru and Bolivia share.
Sitting in a restaurant Peruvians are among the nicest of people one could hope to meet but once they get behind a steering wheel a sort of Incredible Hulk metamorphosis takes place..
” You wouldn’t like me when I am driving! “
I have to be honest that Peruvian drivers are the rudest and most arrogant people I have ever met, also the worst drivers. It is amazing to be running on the opposite side of the road to them, not even on the road, in the hard shoulder. They come around a bend and upon sight of me or anyone else for that matter they honk and honk and honk their horns and all because they have spotted someone  else on ‘ their road ‘
They are so ignorant that I have thrown many a water bottle at their vehicles. Yes I know that ain’t smart, just one phone call to the cops and I could be pulled off the road.
Today I saw an old lady with obvious mobility issues. She got out of a collectivo and proceed to cross the road. Just then another collectivo came speeding through this urban area. Well I was disgusted when this driver honked the old lady out of his way.. How would the driver have reacted had someone else honked his mother off the road? Then as he continued on  in my direction, still honking this time at me. As he was not going very fast, building up his speed again and just going slow enough that this angry runner, so enraged by his treatment of the old lady I wont say what I did…Yes Tony, time to leave Peru!
 
Close to Puno’s plaza I met Clay, a motor biker from Victoria, B.C. in Canada. He was on his way to Bolivia. He had passed me earlier and was now stopped outside an expensive hotel trying to find the address of a backpackers hostel on his iphone. I had the address of the sister hostel I stayed with in Cuzco and managed to get there before him by just asking people. Clay gave up on his iphone map and gave a local a couple dollars to direct him to the address around a series of one way streets.
We shared the same dorm room and went out for a nice dinner that night.
On the way out Clay remarked on what I have noticed in Latin America this past year.
” The cops are grand.. I think they have been told not to hassle the tourists too much. “
” ” Don’t bite the hand that feeds? ” I added.
” Yes they have realized how important tourist dollars are to their economies. “
 
I was planning to run as far as the border another two days on the road and double back to Arequipa to see a man called Joss and his Peruvian wife Ana. They have two children both fluent in English as well as Spanish, sometimes dipping in and out of each language.

Ana,Harry,Joss and Emma. Thanks for a nice time in Arequipa.

 
A few months ago Joss  kindly sent me an invitation. Though Joss was born in England he considers himself to be a Scot!
Joss also took delivery of the Heavy Bag so I will need to pick it up.
During the night I felt terrible, what with my cold and the altitude I hardly slept and was a bit worried about my condition. So I decided to make this side trip first and then return to the route for the run towards the Bolivian border.
Clay was going on a tour of Lake Titicaca the next morning departing at 7am, so at 6.30 I jumped out of bed and decided that was a good idea and was in such a rush that I left my camera behind :(
No worries I was lucky that Clay is a pretty decent photographer and promised he would transfer his 300 plus photos of the tour we went on to my memory stick that night, along with 3.5gb of music.. Isn’t technology great :)

Thanks for the pictures Clay!

Clay took so many incredible pictures that I intend to put up a seperate posting for Lake Titicaca.
It was incredible at the lake, the highest navigable lake in the world. The Uru indians have built the floating islands they live on by weaving a serious amount of reeds.
 It was funny to see some of their basic homes fitted out with solar panels and satellite dishes!
The boats they use are aided by the flotation of up to about 2,000 plastic soda bottles underneath.
 
In Arequipa Ana’s uncle Jorge a retired doctor gave me a health check in which my important iron levels passed with flying colours! Thank you Jorge.
 

Many thanks to Ana's uncle Jorge!

After my return from a three day break in Arequipa of which two nights of compulsive chatting with Joss, an academic, philosopher, former UK youngest ever mortgage company CEO and an army veteran who has fought in five wars. Joss now makes his living as a professional poker player. He tells me that taking all into consideration and with his lovely house, cost of living that he would be four times better off living in Peru than he would be back living in the UK.
So after a night bus there and back I was so shattered that I couldn’t get out of bed back in Puno till almost noon! It took me two and a half days to run the two days to the border town of Desaguadero  I had planned. On the way a dog gave me a farewell lick on the back of my left calf.. Pretty worrying the way he just sneaked up on me!
I also ran through a hectic town called Illave, a video of that was posted on the site recently.
Watch that video HERE
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Many thanks to Kieran Gallagher, Fergus Owens and Aidan Hogan for their kind help with the run!
 
 
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One Response to “Tita in Tinta”

  1. kevin scanlon Says:

    great read tony, you’re spending too much time with the dogs for those impersonations!!!!!

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About Tony

I have always considered myself to be an average runner. In school, I was even bullied for I was a sports wimp. Through hard work, dedication, perseverance, self-belief and a strong mind I succeeded in not only running around the world but breaking four ultra running world records during my competitive career. Having previously cycled around the world I didn't start running until I was almost 30. Then I had a dream of running around the world. For many reasons, I waited for over 20 years. One reason was to establish my pedigree as an endurance athlete. I started and finished my world run as the current World Record-Holder for 48 Hours Indoor Track 426 kilometres (265 miles), a record I have held since 2007. I also broke and still hold the World Record for 48 hours on a Treadmill 405 kilometres (251 miles) in 2008. When I retired from competition, more pleasing than any of my world, European or Irish records I had the respect of my fellow athletes from all over the world - in my opinion, sports greatest reward - an achievement I am most proud of. Then I finally put myself out to pasture, to live my ultimate dream to run around the world! This blog was written on the road while I struggled to find places to sleep and to recover from running an average of 43.3 kilometres or 27 miles per day for 1,165 road days. There were many nights I typed this blog on a smart phone, so fatigued my eyes closed. Many journalists and endurance athletes have referred to my world run as the most difficult endurance challenge ever attempted. During my expedition I rarely had any support vehicles, running mostly with a backpack. In the more desolate areas I pushed my gear, food and water in a cart which I called Nirvana, then I sent her on ahead to run with my backpack once again over altitudes of almost 5,000 metres in the Andes. I stayed in remote villages where many people had never seen a white person before. I literally met the most wonderful people of this world in their own backyard and share many of those amazing experiences in this blog. My run around the world took 4 years. There were no short cuts, I ran every single metre on the road while seeking out the most comprehensive route across 41 countries, 5 continents, I used 50 pair of running shoes and my final footstep of the run was exactly 50,000 kilometres, (almost 31,000 miles) I eventually finished this tongue in cheek named world jog where I started, at the finish line of my city marathon. I started my global run with the Dublin Marathon on October 25th 2010 and finished with the Dublin Marathon on October 27th 2014 at 3 05pm! Thank you for your support, I hope you can share my unique way of seeing the world, the ultimate endurance challenge! Read more...

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